The Toyota HiLux range doesn’t have an answer for halo-model utes like the Ford Ranger Wildtrack or Holden Colorado Z71, which have fast become the coveted vehicles of choice for tradies, farmers, and blokes with spare dough burning a hole in their bank account.
As a stop-gap measure, Toyota has put together a special edition package from its internal Toyota Racing Development catalogue and created the HiLux SR5 TRD Sports Pack - bulking up the exterior with a range of blacked-out TRD accessories for a much tougher look than the standard SR5.
Despite the limited edition tag, the TRD Sports Pack is Toyota’s in-the-metal test of the market’s reaction, and if the sellout success of this limited edition is anything to go by expect a new range-topping HiLux to hit Aussie roads sooner rather than later.
Vehicle Style: 4x4 dual cab ute
Price: $61,540 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.5 l/100km | Tested: 12.5 l/100km
Right now the SR5 is the range-topper for the HiLux range, so in creating the SR5 TRD Sports Packs Toyota has included all the standard SR5 stuff, plus usually-optional leather trim as standard, along with the limited edition extras.
The 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine is the same (there’s no petrol V6 option for the special edition car) with a choice of six-speed manual, or the six-speed auto driven here. Colour choice is limited to white or black to better showcase the black TRD accessories.
Special edition bits and pieces include a TRD front grille, TRD lower bumper extension (which removes the HiLux’s goofy overbite look), black wheel arch flares, a black sports bar, rear TRD mudflaps, soft tonneau cover, matte black 18-inch wheels, black tail light surrounds, and a visible-from-space bright red TRD front bash plate.
The interior also comes with TRD floor mats and a TRD gear selector (auto only), with the whole package made all the more lucrative with on-road costs included starting from $58,990 for a white manual, and adding $550 and $2000 respectively for metallic black paint and an automatic transmission.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, single-zone climate control, TRD floor mats and gear knob, keyless entry and start, auto headlights, TRD grille, TRD front bumper and lower bash-plate, TRD front bumper, rear sports bar, tail light surrounds, 18-inch black alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio, USB input, six-speaker audio.
Interior-wise, the HiLux TRD is almost 100 percent pure SR5 with a few small detail changes: The regular Hilux’s usually optional leather trim and powered driver’s seat is standard, floor mats bear the TRD logo, and if you pick an auto transmission you get a TRD embossed gear knob with a little carbon-look insert.
Is it enough? Compared to the fairly obvious exterior changes the interior seems a bit too mild. Would it be so hard to continue the red and black exterior theme on the inside in the same way that Ford’s Ranger features bold orange inserts of the Wildtrack?
As is typically the case for utes in the class, the HiLux interior is constructed of sturdy hard plastics designed to withstand the test of time, but the design is more SUV than outright workhorse, with silver trim highlights and tablet-style ‘floating’ infotainment screen.
From a practicality point of view, the HiLux is well sorted with dual gloveboxes, including a cooled one to keep your iced coffee in, big door bins, and enough room in the console and centre stack to keep track of any smaller items you might want to throw in.
There’s decent room in the front seats, and even the rear bench is no penalty box with enough head and legroom to seat adults easily enough. Don’t expect first class seating though, with flat and firm seats that aren’t ideal for long-haul stints behind the wheel.
Toyota is at least generous enough to include tilt and reach steering adjustment, something still missing from a few utes in the class. There’s also a 220V power outlet to charge cordless tools or laptops on the go, plus single-zone climate control and sat nav for a generous, but not over-the-top fitout.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 130kW @3400rpm, 450Nm @1600-2400rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, dual-range selectable four wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone independent front, leaf spring rigid rear axle
- Brakes: 319mm ventilated front discs, 295mm rear drums
- Steering: Hydraulic power steering, 11.8m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 3200kg braked (auto), 750kg unbraked
Previous HiLux owners will appreciate the newest generation’s big improvements in refinement, with less noise and vibration than before - though still not a class-leading performance.
Under the bonnet the HiLux features a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that produces 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque (or 420Nm of you choose a manual transmission) from as low as 1600rpm, giving the HiLux peak pulling power from just about any speed.
Toyota’s six-speed auto is a good fit to the package too, unobtrusive and smooth around town, able to deliver an uninterrupted flow of torque to the wheels in off-road scenarios, and easier to live with in the long term for peak-hour commuters, free of the long-throw clutch and shift of manual HiLuxes.
Buyers seeking outright grunt will find that the Holden Colorado or Ford Ranger deliver more power and torque, but unless you plan on running a fully laden ute most of the time, the HiLux still feels strong and flexible enough with what it has.
Ride comfort in particular gets a tick of approval. As a vehicle designed to carry almost a tonne in the back, there’s obviously going to be some firmness and jiggle with nothing in the tray, though the SR5 does cope better than expected when empty. Load it up with some gear in the rear and things feel more stable.
Compared to the old ‘Lux, Toyota has made the rear springs longer and mounted them further outboard for a more stable, car-like ride feel, as well as upgrading dampers all-round. The results make the HiLux feel less agricultural and more SUV-like, with less roll through corners and a more settled bum, though in truth you’re never quite going to mistake it for a passenger car.
While the exterior add-ons might scream Toyota Racing Development to onlookers, the driveline and suspension is free of TRD additions, meaning no high-rise rally-spec suspension or bigger turbo and intercooler to transform the HiLux into some kind off-road battle buggy.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Toyota HiLux scored 34.45 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: All Hilux models come with seven airbags standard (dual front, front side, side curtain, and driver’s knee), front seatbelts with load limiting pretensioners, height adjustable head restraints and three-point seat belts in all positions, and three top-tether child seat anchorages, with two outboard ISOfix mounting points.
Traction and stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brakes assist, are provided across the range, while a reverse camera comes standard on utility models.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: As with its passenger range, Toyota has a Toyota Service Advantage capped-price servicing plan for the HiLux which covers the first three years or 60,000km (whichever comes first). However intervals are short with only six-months or 10,000km between visits, but services are capped at $240 each. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply, and your Toyota dealer can provide more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Ford kicked off the flagship-fourbie movement with the Ranger Wildtrak and still leads the segment today with a ute packed full of features and obvious styling details that make it stand out from a regular Ranger.
Holden has rolled out the Colorado Z71 to answer the Wildtrak’s call - it too is a visual package rather than a proper Z71 off-road pack like you might buy in the USA, but it really gets the tough-guy looks just right.
Not as off-road aggro looking, but plush inside by comparison, and as comfy as you’ll find inside, the Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate really takes the ute class upmarket with features like Nappa leather trim. It’s expensive in comparison, but counters with the most power and torque in its class thanks to a turbo diesel V6 engine
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If nothing else, the HiLux TRD reveals that Toyota has a yawning gap at the top end of its range that consumers are crying out for, and that competitors are already notching up sales against.
This limited edition special was a rapid sell-out success, and shows that the somewhat mild looking HiLux doesn’t need too much done to it to beef it up without going over the top. In fact the HiLux TRD got as many looks from bystanders as some supercars we’ve driven, something I can only attribute to the bright red bash plate under the front bumper.
With proof that an SR5 with more has sales potential in Australia, Toyota is looking at ways it can introduce a full-time flagship model to the range - a car that can’t get here quickly enough as HiLux sales run neck-and-neck with the Ford Ranger.
The base package is a solid one, and of course you could always build your own supremo SR5 with aftermarket parts (plenty of off-roaders already do) but for tradies and families seeking a flasher HiLux this was the right move. Here’s hoping Toyota can find a way to replicate that success full-time.
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